Legends & Legacies View More

Do You Know Karl Malden?

Published: 3/22/2012

In this 1950 file photo, actor Karl Malden is shown. Malden, a former steelworker who won an Oscar for his role as Mitch in the 1951 classic Karl Malden had a remarkable acting career, spanning more than seven decades. He was an Oscar winner for playing Harold "Mitch" Mitchell in A Streetcar Named Desire, but that was far from his only notable role. Malden stands out for his excellent work in not just movies, but also television, including some of history's most recognizable TV commercials.

Today would have been Malden's 100th birthday, and we're noting the day with a look at three memorable examples of his work, one from each genre.

Movies: On the Waterfront
Malden played "waterfront priest" Father Barry, based on a real priest who worked among the dockworkers and tried to rid the waterfront of crime. Malden was nominated for an Oscar but didn't win it, despite giving one of the greatest speeches in movie history.

Television: The Streets of San Francisco
Malden starred alongside Michael Douglas as a detective in the Bay Area. The show ran for five successful seasons from 1972 to 1977, though Douglas left early in the fifth (the decision certainly didn't hurt his career, which blossomed in the years to come). Both Malden and Douglas honed their craft by spending time with real SFPD detectives, who called both men "very fine fellows."

Commercials: American Express
Some of the most iconic commercials of the 1970s were for American Express, and Malden was one of their great pitchmen. His two catchphrases– "Don't leave home without them" and "Do you know me?" – were staples of TV commercial breaks.

Written by Linnea Crowther

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